Spanish bullfighting should have Unesco protection: pro-bulls group

Spanish bullfighting should have Unesco protection: pro-bulls group
Spanish matador Alberto López Simon in Madrid in October. Photo: AFP
The Spanish tradition of bullfighting is under serious threat and needs greater legal protection if it is to survive, the members of a new group from the southern Spanish city of Seville argue.

While many foreigners continue to believe Spaniards spend their Saturday evenings packed into the country's iconic bullfighting arenas, the past-time has actually long played second (or third fiddle) to sports like football and motor racing in the public imagination.

In fact, the sport has fallen seriously out of favour in Spain in recent decades. A recent poll showed that fewer that in one in four people in Spain have any interest in it. And that same survey also found some 60 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds are in favour of a ban on the activity.

In fact bullfighting and bull runs are already banned in the regions of Catalonia and the Canary Islands, while a town in the region of Valencia recently also recently voted to stop holding bullfighting events during local fiestas.

It’s in this context that a group from Seville have set up a new association to defend the colourful but highly controversial past-time.   

The group – named Ignacio Sánchez Mejías after one of Spain’s most famous bullfighters – is fighting to defend the tradition from what they call the “aggressive and defamatory” attacks of the country’s growing anti-bullfighting lobby.   

Members of the platform say bullfighting needs greater legal protection, and want the activity included on Spain’s intangible heritage list, a list created at the request of Unesco, which asks countries to identify their most prized traditions, which may be then be granted special heritage protection.

In fact, the platform wants to go a step further and see bullfighting included on Unesco’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

The man behind the initiative, Seville-based law professor Juan Antonio Carrillo Donaire, says fans must lead the way as they are the only party without an “economic interest” in the issue, Spanish radio station COPE reports.

But Carrillo and the fellow members of his campaign may find the going tough.

While Spaniards have turned away from bullfighting in recent years, France’s culture ministry also recently bowed to pressure and struck La Corrida from its list of “intangible heritage”, after having first included it on the list in 2011.

Under Unesco critera, intangible heritage refers to cultural processes that “provide living communities with a sense of continuity in relation to previous generations and are of crucial importance to identity.”